Darren Van Soye and his wife Sandy recently completed an epic, 424-day around-the-world journey that they called Trekking the Planet. During the journey, these road warriors traveled over 77,000 miles through 53 countries on all six of the populated continents. The longest that they spent in any one place was six days – and this only occurred once on the entire trip. Altogether, they stayed in 113 different hotel rooms and transacted in over 40 different currencies. Some of the destinations were totally off the grid such as the Mustang Region of Nepal, the mountains of Kyrgyzstan, above the arctic circle in Lapland, the Simien Mountains of Ethiopia and the 1,200 miles up the Amazon in Brazil. The couple stayed in touch with the 850 classrooms that followed their adventures using a variety of means. In this brief interview, you will learn some of the road warrior tips and tricks that Darren used to stay connected.
What is the one word that best describes how I work?
You call yourself a Road Warrior — what are the apps/software/tools cannot you live without?
As soon as we clear customs in a new country, our first order of business is to purchase a new SIM card for my Unlocked Motorola Droid 2 Global. (Note: I now am using a Samsung Galaxy S4.) I selected this model because it is one of the few android devices that has a physical keyboard and a full-size SIM. I use Tweakker to make the needed configuration changes. I use gReader as my RSS reader. I forward stories of interest to Pocket to read them later. (I read over 1,000 articles while away on Trekking the Planet. I follow New York Times, BBC and Forbes to keep up-to-date. I share articles to GTasks if they require follow up. When we left the U.S. in January 2012, we had the first 11 months of our trip completely booked. I use the Booking.com app to manage these bookings and Dropbox to store our booking confirmations and other documents such as our itinerary. In fact, we had six pages of bookings before we left on our journey.
In order to produce the documentary shorts, I am using a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V to record the video clips. Sandy has an identical camera for stills. This camera should be standard issue for any road warrior. It’s small and takes full 1080p High Definition video. In order to record the on-camera dialog, I use dv Prompter on my phone as a teleprompter. I have a Sony Vaio S-Series laptop and am using Avid Studio to post-process the video. I use One Load to distribute the video to YouTube, Vimeo and DailyMotion. Because the websites that we need to access are sometimes blocked (like they were in China!) and because we want extra security when accessing our financial accounts online, we use the WiTopia’s VPN service. No road warrior should leave home without a VPN service since it allows access to Hulu and Netflix from anywhere in the world.
What is your workspace like?
As with most road warriors, cramped. When we are not out shooting, I am usually at the desk in our hotel room putting together our video documentaries (I have also spent a great deal of time editing video on planes, trains or in local coffee shops). I am using a 1TB Western Digital USB Drive to archive the photos, video clips and other artifacts from the trip. Sandy and I create our own secure network using a D-Link Pocket Router and sync using Allway Sync since we create content in parallel and often need to share. We are using an All-in-One Travel Power Plug Adapter. This might sound like a minor point, but we went to over 50 countries, so we could not bring a whole box of adapters with us. We also have a Belkin Mini Surge Protector and a six foot (two meter) retractable extension cord because power is often located far away from our work area. These are tools of the trade for any road warrior.
What is your best time-saving hack?
I know that this is not new, but I block out my time when starting a new project. When I was in the corporate world, I would do the same thing by coming to the office early in the morning, working through lunch when everyone else was out of the building or staying late. I have learned that my best work comes when I have “flow”. Once I am “over the hump” (meaning I have a clear direction and have laid out the steps I need to complete), I can relax a little. Another road warrior tip – plan exactly how you are going to use your time on flights.
What is your favorite to-do list manager?
Though I simply love GTasks, I prefer this tool to fully explore a topic using the mind mapping tool called Mindjet first. By saving the finished map in Dropbox, I have access to it on my laptop using FreeMind. A true road warrior knows that there is a lot of down time while traveling — use it wisely.
What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else? What is your secret?
I have a software background. At work, we used the Scrum methodology to develop most new computer systems. I have found that this same technique can apply to most any creative endeavor. When I sit down to produce a new documentary, I typically have an hour worth of clips, hundreds of stills and, sadly, no idea how it is all going to come together. Scrum helps by simplifying the problem through to concepts of sprints and backlogs. Basically, I set an intermediate goal and then break the work down into steps that I can accomplish in 20-30 minutes. When Sandy and I are working on a project together, we use a shared Excel spreadsheet that is stored in Dropbox. (Google Docs don’t work when you are flying at 38,000 feet.) We planned our entire trip this way.
What do you listen to while you work?
I subscribe to Rhapsody’s Premier Service. It allows me to download hundreds of songs and then listen to them offline. As a result, I never get tired of the music I have. When comparing the cost of Rhapsody vs. purchasing songs, I feel I am getting a good deal. I have been known to listen to Zakk Wylde (the heavy metal guitarist) when I feel I need a dose of creative energy.
What is your sleep routine like?
It seems we are in a different time zone every week, so I often find myself wide-awake at 3am. Instead of fighting it, I embrace it by catching up on articles I have captured on Pocket. After an hour or so, I get groggy and fall back to sleep. I also employ the 20-minute road warrior cat nap as a way to regain a fresh perspective late in the afternoon.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
I am a big fan of Dean Karnazes. He is the guy that ran 50 marathons in 50 days in each of the 50 US States. Dean has many great quotes. But, my favorite is simply “Go”. Based on his life story, I began to realize that there are no limits to what you can accomplish in life. (And, even if there are, they are so far beyond what we think they are, for all practical purposes, they don’t exist). If you have a dream, however crazy, start taking small steps to realize it.
Anything else you want to add?
Figure out what time of the day that you are most creative and only schedule creative tasks for that time. Push repetitive tasks to the end of the day, when you are tired.